Or, is it one that is bringing you down? One that is defeating you? A story that is keeping you from living out your life to its fullest in every way? A story that tells you that you are not enough, that you are unlovable, or that you don't belong, or that you are not good enough, not smart enough, not strong enough, not skinny enough, not quick enough, not thoughtful enough? What is the story that you tell yourself? If you are like me, it varies depending on the area of my life. Some stories are awesome, some are not so great and are not serving me at all.
My workout instructor, friend and colleague, Haywood Simmons, during challenging workouts tells us, "That's your old story, what's the new story that you are creating? Quit telling yourself the old story." This is so true! I may be running and telling myself that I'm not a runner, I can't make it, I suck at running, I hate running, I'm too old to run, blah blah blah. How is that story serving me? Is it heading me in the direction of my goals? Is it getting me what I want? If your old story isn't serving you than quit telling yourself it, create a new story.
Letting go of the old story
How easy is it for you to let go of your attachment to your old story? How attached to it are you? Sometimes, even if we don't like the story, it's what we are familiar with, it's what we know, it's our comfort zone. How comfortable is it to change the story, to tell ourselves a new story, to venture into unchartered territory? Sometimes the fear of the unknown, the fear of trying on a new story holds us back. What if we can't do it, what if we fail? Fear holds us back and can cause us to get stuck in the same old story.
Being willing to release the old story can be hard. We have that old pattern to break and it takes some diligence, some practice, some patience, some courage to break it and rewrite a new one.
The first step in the process is be willing to recognize the story and the desire to change it. Just the awareness and the willingness are huge steps in the right direction. Every time you notice yourself starting to tell the old story stop, breathe, acknowledge that it's the old story, and then affirm something about the new story of your life. Even something as simple as, "I am brave and courageous", or "I am enough", are wonderful affirmations to help begin the shift in another direction.
Write a new story
What is the new story that you want to create, your new goal or habit? The next step is to believe that you can make it happen. Get pumped, get psyched, develop a sense of certainty that you can do it. There’s been a lot of research on the biology of belief at the cellular level, so work on believing that you can make it happen. Another trick to be aware of is that the brain can’t really tell the difference between a scene you actually see and one you imagine vividly. So, envision in great detail accomplishing this goal, implementing this habit, this new story and what your life would be like.
The next step is to give yourself a lot of “small wins”. Plan for incremental changes. For example, if your goal is to become a vegan, stop eating animal products once a week at first, then twice a week, etc., until you’ve stopped completely. Each small victory of a meat-free day rewards you with a boost in dopamine. When we achieve a goal, dopamine is released in the brain, making us feel good. Dopamine contributes to pleasure and joy, but new studies indicate that it is also essential for habit formation. The satisfaction of a small success keeps you going and makes you want to do better.
You can boost up the dopamine even more by rewarding yourself and celebrating your win. If your goal was to workout three times per week and you accomplish it, maybe treat yourself to a new pair of running shoes. Releasing more dopamine will help you form positive habits by allowing you to feel joy. Consider creating a reward for yourself every time you achieve a small victory. So, instead of focusing on a negative, like that you’re still not fully vegan after three months (which releases all kinds of negative hormones in your body), celebrate that you’re now down to eating meat only three times a week compared to seven times, which will give you a dopamine boost, and make you progress even more, and more permanently.
Shawn Achor, Ph.D. recommends the 3-20 second rule for establishing new habits. To introduce a new habit, he recommends that we lower by 3-20 seconds the time needed to perform it. To avoid an existing unwanted habit, increase by 3-20 seconds the time needed to perform it. This rule helps to make new habits easier to adopt and old habits harder to maintain. For example, if your goal is to get up early and workout, set your running shoes by the bed, lay out your workout clothes and set out your breakfast the night before. These small tasks will make it a few seconds easier for you to accomplish your goal in the morning enough to cause you succeed.
Do the opposite for getting rid of bad habits or old stories. If you desire to watch less TV, take the batteries out of the remote control and place them in a drawer and put a book down where the remote usually resides. The simple act of having to put them back in will deter you from falling back into the bad habit.
Be compassionate with yourself along the way. Acknowledging that this is a new story and stories take some patience, some love and understanding, some diligence, some attention to the details and some tender-loving care.
Be mindful of the pictures that you paint in your head. What story are they creating? What movie are you watching? Are they painting and creating the life that you desire, or the old story of who you are?
What do you think? Is your story serving you? How hard is it to detach from the old story to begin a new one? I would love to hear your comments on this post. Drop me a comment of send me an email!